Casino operator, legislator assaulted panchayat member: civic group

February 8th, 2009 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyPanaji, Feb 7 (IANS) Condemning the attack on an elected panchayat member, a civil society group Saturday accused a local Congress legislator of colluding with a casino operator before carrying out the armed assault.
The attack Thursday by four masked men on Reis Magos panchayat representative Francis Serrao allegedly by Congress legislator Agnelo Fernandes had rocked the winter session of the Goa legislative assembly which concluded Friday.

Addressing a press conference Saturday afternoon, members of the Nerul-Verem Nagrik Kruti Samiti said that the assault was triggered after the Reis Magos panchayat members withdrew the no objection certificate (NOC) given to High Street Cruise, a casino operator, for the purpose of building a jetty in the Mandovi river.

“The earlier panchayat, which owed allegiance to Fernandes, had given the casino operator an NOC even without a panchayat resolution. We started getting threats to our life the moment we withdrew the NOC,” Devanand Shirodkar, a member of the samiti said.

“High Street Cruise owns the Casino Royale, which is functioning illegally in the Mandovi. It does not have any permission from the panchayat,” said former industries minister Suresh Parulekar, also a member of the citizens forum.

“Those panchayat members who passed the resolution withdrawing the NOC to the casino are now being singled out and threatened,” he added.

The brutal assault on Serrao was discussed during a calling attention motion in the legislative assembly moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after a complaint was lodged by the victim against the Congress legislator from Calangute, Agnelo Fernandes, and other unknown assailants.

The police, while registering the complaint, had excluded the name of Fernandes. The assault comes a couple of months after the victim had informed the police in writing about a possible threat to his life.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Fernandes had dismissed allegations of assault levelled against him by the opposition and had described the complainants as extortionists.

Fernandes had alleged that Home Minister Ravi Naik’s son was linked to the “extortionists, who are also involved in the flesh trade”.

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